Part One of this series introduced the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research’s Embedded Performance Expert Quality Improvement Evaluation, an effort to evaluate the embedment of Performance Experts within units at the brigade and battalion levels. Based on interviews with EPEs and unit leaders, the WRAIR evaluation team identified best practices for embedding PEs. This article will highlight methods for promoting a successful start to the embedment.
Battalion- and Company-Level Leadership
It is critical for EPEs to fully integrate themselves with leadership to become familiarized with the unit’s schedule and to establish operational goals. During initial meetings with battalion-level leadership, EPEs work to understand the priorities of the Commander and the Command Sergeant Major. Discussing metrics for the battalion provides insight into what is important and constitutes combat readiness for the unit. Generic metrics include APFT/ACFT and marksmanship; however, battalions routinely add metrics specific to their mission. EPEs observe the unit at trainings, in the field, and in the Company Operations Facility, to allow them to learn about the unit’s task demands. This informs the trainings that the EPEs will later deliver. EPEs can better understand the trajectory of unit training and can integrate their trainings so that they align with the unit’s mission by attending the unit’s training meetings.
EPEs deliver an initial capabilities brief to battalion and company leadership, making sure leaders understand all that they can offer. It is helpful if the EPEs provide an installation-specific portfolio, including storyboards, to help paint the picture of their capabilities (e.g., performance, resilience, leader development, team cohesion). EPEs also inform leaders where they can train (e.g., classroom, field, NTC/JRTC), so they can be fully utilized.
While battalion leadership may be willing to provide introductions, they might not direct their companies to use the EPEs. Therefore, it is imperative for EPEs to proactively and effectively communicate their capabilities to company and platoon leadership. This requires EPEs to be present and persistent. Providing business cards with their contact information and requesting contact information from leaders, including their preferred method of communication (e.g., text, call, face-to-face), was one effective strategy for ensuring continued contact with leaders.
Mid-Level Leaders and Soldiers
At the start of embedment, EPEs also begin building rapport with junior officers, junior NCOs, and Soldiers. This often happens in informal settings, such as in the COF or before physical training, or in formal settings, such as in trainings and AARs. For informal settings, successful EPEs introduce themselves, explain what they do, share where their office is, and then center the conversation on the Soldiers. In formal settings, it is also important for EPEs to reiterate the purpose, or “why,” of the training or coaching they provided so that Soldiers integrate the skills and concepts with other parts of their jobs or personal lives.
In summary, these are some initial strategies EPEs can use to ensure a successful embedment from the start. The next article will highlight what EPEs can do throughout the embedment to either keep their units on track or to continue improving their relationship.